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European Countries Leave U.S. Trailing in Race for Universal Broadband

LONDON, March 11, 2010 – European countries are adopting measures to reach 100 percent broadband penetration – and they’re going to reach that goal well before the United States.

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LONDON, March 11, 2010 – European countries are adopting measures to reach 100 percent broadband penetration – and they’re going to reach that goal well before the United States.

This is partly because European regions tend to be more densely populated, often with shorter distances to their remote communities. Some have fewer topographic challenges than others, making it easier to bring broadband to all homes.

However, in many cases Europeans are benefiting from firm commitments from local and central governments that began as many as 10 years ago.

Such commitment led Finland to become the first European country to legislate for universal broadband in October 2009, requiring telecommunications firms to provide residents with access at 1 megabit or more by July 2010.

By December 2010, each region will have a telecom firm subject to a Universal Service Order, as defined by the European Union in its i2010 strategy to heal the digital divide among its member states. Others are following Finland’s move. Austria set a target of 25 mbps for its residents by 2013, aiming to achieve this through legislation stimulating wholesale provision and cooperative ventures between operators.

Universal provision is certainly far easier for some countries to provide than others. Finland was well placed since 96 percent of its people were already within reach of broadband by 2005.

Some, including the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, now have virtually 100 percent coverage anyway, compared with 98.5 percent in France, 95 percent in Germany, and just 82 percent in the United States, according to a report (pdf) from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

This same report also highlighted the problems comparing broadband coverage in different countries given the variety of service types and definitions. The report defined broadband as being 500 kbps or faster downstream, but that itself looks like an outdated measure given that it’s woefully inadequate for delivering a growing number of services such as high-definition television.

For most countries, the challenge for universal broadband remains the last mile in remote areas, or might be called the “last 10 percent”, with various measures being adopted.

Finland is leveraging its world-class expertise in wireless, having invested in High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) technology to cover most of the country by providing up to 21 mbps downstream. This forms part of its highly ambitious plan to step up universal broadband to 100 mbps by 2015.

The United Kingdom also aims to exploit its mobile network, with the emphasis on filling in the gaps to reach the 15 percent of households incapable of receiving 2 mbps or more over their digital subscriber line connections. The United Kingdom also highlights the problem of definition. The OECD says the United Kingdom has 100 percent broadband coverage, but many of its more remotely located citizens would disagree as they struggle to gain access even at 500 kbps.

By contrast, South Korea already provides most of its population with 100 mbps over its fiber-dense networks. This is precisely the FCC’s plan for 100 million homes within the United States, but not until 2020.

Meanwhile, some countries and regions are leaning more heavily on their existing cable TV networks to fill out top-end broadband within populated areas, now that an international telecommunications standard known as the DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem standard supports downstream speeds up to 100 Mbps with the aid of channel bonding. Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification, or DOCSIS, allows the addition of high-speed data transfer to a cable TV system.

Cable networks accounted for about 38 percent of the Netherlands’s 5.996 million broadband connections by Sept. 30, 2000 and was gaining ground over DSL, according to the Dutch telecom journal Telecompaper.

The importance of cable networks for broadband competition has been reflected in some countries by the regulator including them in unbundling programs. Danish telecom regulator National IT and Telecom Agency has ordered the operator TDC to open both its copper and cable networks to other broadband providers.

This Danish move highlights a possible deficiency in the U.S. plan to stimulate competition and price competitiveness. While Denmark, in common with many European countries, has promoted competition between multiple service providers, the FCC’s focus has been more on creating alternative broadband modes of delivery, such as DSL and cable. The trouble with this is that the same operator may provide both, leaving little incentive to price competitively.

Philip Hunter is a London based technology reporter specialising in broadband platforms and their use to access high speed services and digital entertainment. He has written extensively for European publications about emerging broadband services and the issues surrounding deployment and access for over 10 years, with a technical background in ICT systems development and testing.

Broadband Data

Ookla Has Verizon as Fastest Q1 Fixed Provider, T-Mobile Takes Top Spot for Mobile

T-Mobile was also named the most consistent mobile operator and topped 5G download speeds.

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Image of Speedtest from May 2017 by Daniel Aleksandersen used with permission

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2022 – A market report released Friday by performance metrics web service Ookla named Verizon the fastest fixed broadband provider in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2022, and T-Mobile as the fastest mobile operator during the same period.

Verizon had a median download speed of 184.36 Mbps, edging out Comcast Xfinity’s speed of 179.12 Mbps. T-Mobile’s median mobile speed was 117.83 Mbps.

Verizon had the lowest latency of all providers, according to Ookla, well ahead of Xfinity’s fourth place ranking, yet sat at third for consistency behind both Xfinity and Spectrum.

T-Mobile was also the most consistent mobile operator during the first quarter, achieving an Ookla consistency score of 88.3 percent, which along with median download speed represented an increase from the fourth quarter of 2021.

The company also achieved the fastest median 5G download speed, coming in at 191.12 Mbps.

Verizon also notably increased its 5G download speed from its Q4 metric, attributed in part to the turning on of new C-band spectrum in January following deployment delays and protest from airlines. For mobile speeds, it stood in second behind T-Mobile, bumping AT&T to a standing of third. These rankings were the same for mobile measures of latency and consistency.

Yet on 5G availability, AT&T remains ahead of Verizon.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra came in as the fastest popular device in the country, running at 116.33 Mbps.

Ookla is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.

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Broadband Data

FCC’s Rosenworcel: Broadband Nutrition Labels Will Create New Generation of Informed Buyers

The FCC hopes companies will make it easier for consumers to choose a broadband plan that fits their needs.

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Photo of Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel speaking at the Mobile World Conference 2022 in Barcelona

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission’s broadband nutrition labels will usher in a new era where buyers have simple information about what they’re buying, agency Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said Friday.

Consumers should know what they’re signing up for when they spend hundreds “or even thousands” of dollars per year for internet service. She was speaking at Friday’s commission hearing on its so-called broadband nutrition label initiative.

The hearing comes on top of a public comment period on the initiative. Many providers are pushing for more flexible regulations on compliance.

When consumers choose a broadband provider for their household, Rosenworcel said may people make decisions with “sometimes incomplete and inaccurate information.”

“The problem for broadband consumers isn’t a total lack of information, but there’s loads of fine print,” Rosenworcel said. “It can be difficult to know exactly what we are paying for and these disclosures are not consistent from carrier to carrier,” which makes comparing prices and services harder and more time-consuming for consumers.

The comments built on other recent speeches by Rosenworcel promoting the initiative, encouraging state attorneys general’s ability to enforce companies’ commitments through their states’ consumer protection statutes.

The FCC began a plan in 2015 for broadband labels that was voluntary. The new initiative directed by last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law makes this effort mandatory for broadband providers.

Matt Sayre, managing director of cross sector economic development firm Onward Eugene, said residents in rural Oregon would benefit from simple information when considering broadband providers. During a time where dial-up and satellite-based offerings were primarily available, Sayre said his neighbors “never used terms like latency or packet loss.”

“These are important aspects of good internet service, but not easily understood by most people,” Sayre said. “Citizens understood they needed better service but were uncertain about what tier of service they needed. This is where broadband labels can be very helpful.”

The hearing was the agency’s first on the initiative.

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Broadband Data

Small ISP Organizations Push FCC for Flexibility on Broadband Label Compliance

Advocates say strict compliance requirements may economically harm small providers.

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Photo of outgoing WISPA CEO of Claude Aiken from April 2018 by New America used with permission

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2022 ­­– In comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday, organizations representing small internet providers are pushing for flexible regulations on compliance with a measure that requires clear reporting of broadband service aspects to consumers.

The measure was adopted at a late January meeting by the commission, mandating that providers list their pricing and speed information about services in the format of a “broadband nutrition label” that mimics a food nutrition label. Congress’ bipartisan infrastructure bill enacted in the fall required that the FCC adopt such policy.

The organizations that submitted comments Wednesday say that strict compliance requirements for the new measure may economically harm small providers.

Among those leading the charge are trade associations Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association and America’s Communications Association as well as provider Lumen Technologies.

In comments, limited resources of smaller providers were cited as factors which could disadvantage them in terms of complying with the measure to the FCC’s standards and several organizations asked for small providers to be given extra time to comply.

In separate comments, internet provider Lumen said that the FCC must make multiple changes to its approach if it is to “avoid imposing new obligations that arbitrarily impose excessive costs on providers and undermine other policy goals.”

Last month, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that she looks forward to increased coordination between the FCC and state attorneys general for the enforcement of the measure.

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